Friday, November 26, 2004

The Ten Best Political Films Ever Made

With the holiday season approaching and many blue state friends in need of some cheering up, why not stick one of these under the Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush?

In no particular order:

Three Kings: its a war film, heist caper, and a none-too-subtle look at the failing of US policy at the end of Gulf War I.

Fog of War: its creepy and depressing how much MacNamara looks and sounds like Rumsfeld with his talk of metrics and models. Errol Morris gives the original time and motion warrior enough rope and by God, does he ever hang himself.

South Park: The Movie: proof that violence is good and swearing is bad, a la the MPAA.

All The President's Men: one of the last films Dustin Hoffman didn't play a quirky/sad/ironic version of "Dustin Hoffman" the brand, and a reminder of how great a free press can be.

Bob Roberts: Tim Robbin's sometimes heavy-handed satire still has its moments, not least Jack Black's unibrow and the sublimely scary feeling that this could be a real documentary.

Control Room: if we are going to kill them, we should at least try to understand their point of view, eh?

The Manchurian Candidate; the original, and still the best.

Gandhi; one man can. While smiling and eating channa dhal.

Fahrenheit 911; I ummed and ahhed over including Mike Moore- I loved it but I like to think that I'm savvy enough to recognize my own deep bias. The film is deeply flawed, borderline racist in places, and lacks a coherent narrative, but for pure incredulous anger and political impact, it has to be here.

The films of Oliver Stone, by the way, were disqualified due to my deep discomfort with his presentation of fictionalized accounts as unvarnished fact, something I take the right to task for constantly. Inventing his own theories about the assassination of JFK is just as bad as strutting about on an aircraft carrier- political myth making that only obscures understanding. People like Oliver Stone are part of the reason middle America willingly believes that Saddam was responsible for 9/11 because as he tells us often, if the government said it didn't happen, it probably did.

In the dishonorable mentions category:
Both Forrest Gump and The Lion King are fascist movies, with deeply troubling themes of rigid compliance to behavioral norms and social hierarchies upon pain of death. Consider the fate of Jenny in Forrest Gump: she questions the system while Forrest fights in Vietnam, embraces idiot savant capitalism, and ends up a millionaire. As a result she gets beaten by her lovers, gets strung out on drugs, contracts AIDs, winds up as a single mother and poorly paid waitress, and dies. The one time Forrest steps out of line, to schtup Jenny at her instigation, he knocks her up. Terrible movie.

In The Lion King, Simba's desire to stay out of the family business and to explore results in has father's death at the hooves of rampaging wildebeests. Later he falls in with a speed freak meercat and a pot head wild boar, then finally realizes that he has to ascend to the throne and start eating the weaker members of society, as suggested in the song The Circle of Life. Social imagineering the Disney way.

Blogging note: History Friday is being deliberately held over until Sunday this week so that we can celebrate together the anniversary of the fall of Mrs. Thatcher. Now, if we can only find a US Marine ARV to pull down her statue so we can hit it with shoes...

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